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Most of us have probably had the unfortunate experience-at least once-of watching some-one overdose, going blue and seemingly dying right before your very eyes, and we've all seen people waste valuable time,  arguing,  - - about what is the best method to bring them around.  Shoot them up with salty water?  - Slap them hard around the chops?  Walk them round and round in circles?    - - - Shoot' em with cocaine or some other upper?  But what if it is a crack overdose?  -  In Overdose Myths Part 1 we will cover some of the things you DON'T do to bring your mate around.  

Part 2 will deal with what you ought to do in an overdose situation.  REMEMBER An ambulance has no legal obligation to call the police in an overdose situation.  Each Health Authority will handle things a little differently but the fact stands---THE POLICE ARE NOT LEGALLY BOUND TO FOLLOW AN AMBULANCE TO A DRUGS OVERDOSE.   


If someone overdoses, then it's best just to lie them down somewhere quiet to sleep it off.

WRONG!! Leaving someone on their own could result in their death.  It only takes a few minutes for someone to stop breathing and die.  Even if the person is breathing, they need someone to make sure that they stay breathing.  They could also roll on their back and choke on their own vomit (remember Jimmy Hendrix).  Someone must make sure that the person lies on their side (in the recovery position) which helps keep their airways open--until help arrives which helps keep their airways open--until help arrives.If someone drops, and are not breathing and/or don't show signs of a pulse, don't fool around-call an ambulance.

Hitting someone up with water or salty water will bring them around if they have overdosed.

WRONG!!  Injecting a person with water will have no effect at all if they have overdosed.  Water is not the antidote to heroin or other drugs and it will not reduce or "water " down the effect or the amount of the drug they have taken .  Injecting large amounts of water can cause veins to collapse, cause swelling in the brain by having extremely high levels of fluid in the blood and can overload the kidneys.  All this will achieve is to waste precious time.

If someone goes spark out on the gear, then you should put them straight in the bath or shower. 

WRONG!!  Water is one of the quickest ways to raise or lower a person's body temperature.  If you put someone who has overdosed  in a shower or bath, you could send them into shock by changing  their body temperature  too quickly.  They could also drown if their lungs get filled with water.  All through this, very valuable time is being wasted.  

If someone has overdosed and are not responding, walking them around will bring them back.

WRONG!!   If someone hasn't responded to your attempts to bring them around, they well may be unconscious. Forcing them to walk around if they are not breathing will only waste the short amount of time you have to get help and get them to breathing again.  If they are unconscious, moving them around a lot could also cause serious injuries. 

If you have overdosed and then been given a shot of Naloxone or Narcan®  by   the paramedics to bring you around, you may well be pissed off that they've 'straightened you out."   However, it is safe to have another shot straight     afterwards anyway.

WRONG!!   The drug you may have seen or had administered by the paramedics if you've overdosed on opiates is probably been Narcan® or Naloxone, the wonder wakener for overdoses.. But the effects of both these are only temporary and it can  wear pretty fast so having another shot could send you spark out again.

 In fact, even if you don't have another shot after your hit of Narcan®, you could still overdose again later, particularly if you have got a long-acting drug like methadone in your systemFor these reason, you need someone to keep an eye on you for about eight hours after you have been given Narcan®.  It is important to remember that Narcan® only works on opioids (heroin, methadone, Oxycontin®, Vicodin ES®, Percocet®, morphine, and Dilaudid® ) but it does not work on pills, alcohol, speed, or coke.   So if you have taken a cocktail of drugs, and are then given Narcan® to come around you will be out of it on all the other stuff and will need someone to keep an eye on you.      

Most overdoses occur because the purity of the gear suddenly changes. 

WRONG!!  The majority of overdoses in the community happen because people mix their drugs. For example, taking drugs such as heroin, alcohol, benzodiazepines and methadone at the same time. Changes in the purity of heroin alone, is rarely the cause of overdoses.

If someone passes out/overdoses and then has an epileptic type seizure you should put the end of the spoon on their tongue so they don't bite or swallow it.

WRONG!!   If someone has a drug-induced seizure and they pass out and start having convulsions, usually lasting 1-3 minutesIt can be a scary experience for people that haven't witnessed beforeDon't panic though and stuff a wooden spoon down their throat

Drug induced convulsions are a fairly common type of Over-Dosed experience, especially if one has a habit on benzodiazepines, misses a few days tablets and then ends up having a seizure.  Methadone in some forms has also been known to cause seizure /comas/brain damage in some doses. 

If someone has a seizure, turn them on their side (the recovery position) loosen the clothing around their neck and chest and hold them gently but firmly so they don't injure themselves on other objects when convulsing.  After the fit has stopped, make sure their airways are clear from vomit/blood  ( you may run your finger gently through their mouth, remember there may be blood ftom a bitten tongue) and that they are breathing is normal.  Meanwhile, it is always safer to have an ambulance called and on their way to check that everything is OK.         

Suicide is the most common reason why people overdose.

WRONG!!  Research on this issue shows that the majority of drug overdoses happen by accident.

It is the contaminants in dope that causes the overdoses ie; hot shots strychnine, etc.    

WRONG!!    Research on this issue shows that contaminants are rarely, if ever, found in samples of street drugs such as heroin, speed, coke etc.


DON'T  leave someone who has over-dosed in the street hoping someone will find them. People have ended up dying from exposure to the cold rather than to the drugs.

DON'T try to make someone who is unconscious vomit.

DON'T try to do heart massage if you can still feel someone's pulse.

DON'T try to make someone who has over-dosed drink a cup of coffee or tea to bring them around because you may make them vomit and suffocate.


Mostly reprinted from the Australian NUAA UsersVoice magazine but we have added a few English touches and some extra bits of our own knowledge and information.  Thanks NAUU.  Thanks also to RELEASE for their legal knowledge and help.  

Have you lost anyone from an accidental overdose?   If you have, please send us their name with a write up with whatever it is you would like to say about the person. This section is dedicated to them alone.  Remember----if you feel as if you cannot quit 'cold turkey' ------try methadone.  If you have reached the point --you are tired of using and want to try another way --call us.  We will help you and then you can join with us in the fight to end the stigma and discrimination attached to methadone.

You can reach us at: ChangeYourLife@MedicalAssistedTreatment.org  If you feel you need help immediately, call us at 770-428-8769 .  If you cannot afford to call us - then we recommend you use the Feedback Form on our Home Page to send us a message.  (Please remember to include your name, phone number and the best time to call and the urgency of your situation and we will return the call as soon as we possibly can.) If you mark it urgent then it will not be over twenty -fours at the most - but most of them are answered within four to six hours after they are received.   

 Stay Tuned
For Lots More
More To Come.  
Part 2 will deal
with what you
should do in an
overdose situation.

  Updated:  June 24, 2005  BY: Deborah Shrira/Editor

If you're out there using a range of drugs on a fairly regular basis, then chances are you're probably gonna witness a friend or a lover overdose, pass out and go blue right in front of your eyes.. As their last breaths seem to seep away - are you going to know what to do? Will your mates know what to do if it's you?

In between the deepest gouches of nod land or those fast and furious rushes sent ala uncle, there lies a thin blue line (usually around the lips) that one travels when trying to create the concoctions of the deeply wasted. A few pills here, a few beers there and a nice hit coutesy of the moonflower and wham!  Over you go. Of course you didn't plan it, the majority of overdoses are accidents, most occurring from mixing drugs and a large number happening when you've just been released from the jail or rehabilitation.  But  what if it's your partner, or your best mate, or even the person you just met scoring - somebody's son or daughter?

There's a certain amount of responsibility all drug users must take on when out there getting stoned. First and foremost, our main responsibility has got to be knowing how  to resusitate someone who's gone over.  How many times have you been there when someone's overdosed?  How many times have you seen people panic and not know what to do?  How often have you seen someone being left on their own, blue lipped and gurgling while an anonymous phone call was made to the ambulance?  Did they make it?  Or did they die?

First and foremost, our main
responsibility has got to be 
knowing how to resusitate-
someone who has gone over.
How many times have you been
there when someone's over-
dosed?  How many times have
you seen people panic and

 not know what to do? 

Mouth to Mullered Mouth

Resuscitation aint hard. In fact it's pretty bloody simple. From a personal standpoint, I learnt mouth to mouth resuscitation in swimming classes in school, and while I've been there at over a dozen overdosed, nobody has ever died because breathing for them --- helps keep them alive - at least until the ambulance arrives. It can prevent brain damage by ensuring oxygen gets to the lungs and brain in time and will more often than not,save a life. 

If you use drugs, you have a responsibility to yourself, your mates, the using community (and those who love them), to learn how to do this, so read on

After all, it will be one of us that will be standing there when an overdose happens. There won't be any doctor present. It really is up to us.   Learning the recovery position is all well and good, but it won't help someone who's stopped breathing.  No more deaths through ignorance.  Read this page over and then read it again. Then practice resuscitation on your partner and then read this page one more time...Do the right thing.  Don't let a friend become a statistic when there was something you could of done.

Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation

It can happen fast, the person passing out before they even get the works out of their arm, or it can happen slow, 15-20 minutes after they've had their hit.  It can even happen when they've seemingly crashed out on the couch or in bed, sometime during the night. It can depend on the amount and types of drugs taken and the way they were taken. Just because you might not inject or take heroin DOES NOT mean you can't overdose on something else.

However there are signs to watch out for.  Have they gone blue/grey in the face (look at the lips)?  Have they seized up or have they gone totally limp?  Both can be signs of unconsciousness.  Are they making weird snoring//gurgling noises? Have their eyes rolled back in their head so you can hardly see their iris? Are they unresponsive?  All of these are signs of unconsciousness. 

Put your ear to their mouth, do you hear or feel them breathing? Pinch their earlobe - are they still not responding?  They may have stopped breathing altogether or they may be having a lot of trouble breathingEither way, they're going to need your help.  If a person has stopped breathing you have less than 5 minutes to start the breathing again before brain damage or death follows. If they are struggling to breathe on their own, a few minutes breath from you may be just what they need to come round again.

Act calmly, act quickly, act decisively. But ACT!  

Reference:  Black Poppy  Issue 8   

Compiled And Edited:  Deborah Shrira        Updated:  March 2008